Small steps for big impact

Small steps for big impact
Photo by Jason Leung / Unsplash

Franka kindly asked me to write a few words to you about the kaizen approach I use in my creativity and business coaching, and how this philosophy has helped my perfectionism and quality of life.

In short: adapting the gentle approach to creativity, self-love and business has changed my life!

Let me explain the truth behind these huge and often overused words:

As you know, creating and doing anything new feels uncomfortable, vulnerable, and sometimes down-right terrifying. It’s much easier to just stick to what you’re doing and rationalize why that’s best. This is the natural response for all of us, it is the amygdala’s (the fight/flight/freeze) natural reaction. This part of our brain is here to protect us and it’s doing a great job. Thing is, we don’t need protection from writing a blog post or making art but the amygdala reacts the same way to anything new. This means we’re up against our own brains when we’re going for our goals, dreams, and positive changes in our lives, not actual danger. Your brain just doesn’t know the difference.

Enter kaizen!

Kaizen is a philosophy of making continuous improvements using small steps (much smaller than you think), asking small questions, and letting your subconscious bring you the answer, addressing problems and challenges while they are still small, and looking for small ways to improve what you already have or are.

I use the small step approach when I catch myself not wanting to do the work, whether it’s creative work or housework, and tell myself to just do a little bit.

If I have to write a new blog post, I’ll just think of a topic. If I have to write an email (like this one), I get started by saying to myself I’ll just jot down some notes for 5 minutes.

These small steps get me started and once I’ve started, I usually end up doing more. That’s the power of kaizen.

This is how I get most things done now. Writing, creating, reading, cleaning, you name it.

Another super effective and even gentler way to use kaizen, is to ask a small question that’ll activate your creative brain. It could be a question like “What could be the smallest way I could begin ____________” (fill in the blank)

My perfectionism has a hard time trying to be in control when there’s no pressure to “perform”. Another massive reason kaizen is a useful framework for us creators. Many of us have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and doing just the tiniest of tiniest steps is a sigh of relief.

You can use the kaizen approach in any area of your life. It is a practice, and it might take a little while to get under your skin. Be patient and gentle with yourself, because once you got it, it will change you. I guarantee it.

I’ll leave you with a gentle question for self-love:

“How can I be gentle with myself today?”